Church, we’ve dropped the ball. There is a population in our churches who need some TLC.
I am a survivor of long-term childhood sexual abuse. I am well aware of its effects, for you see I am the woman at the well. It took me 25 years to get to that well, and not before I had completely twisted my entire life into a raging mess. Someday it is my goal to write about that woman at the well at length, because I know how she got that way. But for today, I will just say this:
I remember as a little girl, sitting in the pew with my grandmother and listening to the preacher with the big yellow tie talk about the consequences of sexual sin, fornication and adultery. Let’s just say that God became a very scary fellow in my world and I ran from scary.I was in and out of churches , youth groups, different religions and even explored buddhism for a short time. I was desperately seeking a God, no more than that, A savior. I could not believe that there was no relief for me in a place that claimed a loving God. All I felt was guilt, shame and fear. So much fear.
What was missing was my tangible Jesus. The hands, feet and arms of a savior who loved me. That yellow tied preacher would have never been able to impart to me how much Christ loved me, how much healing he had planned for my future, how valuable I was to my God because he didn’t get it. What was missing was someone in my life who did get it. That one on one to say to me you are not the only one, you are not alone, get up and fight, be responsible for your behavior, make good choices, don’t be afraid, don’t be ashamed,this is who Jesus really is, you have a hope and a future. What was missing was a mentor.
I am lucky enough to have two now. One i knew briefly and one who is a phone call away.
My short-term mentor lead me to my meeting with Jesus at the well with these words
” Who told you that you had to suffer for love? I have watched you stand in a relationship with someone who is not good for you, befriend people who do not care for you, self destruct, starve yourself both physically and spiritually,lie to yourself and me, take on the weight of the world just so you won’t have to deal with the fact that you have been hoodwinked by the enemy of God. Don’t you know that the suffering has already been done on the cross by Jesus? He loves you. He did that so you don’t have to live like this. Get up, Sharon. No more games. He is calling you out right now!”
I Never saw her again but it Changed my life. It changed everything.
My Long term mentor is the one I can call when I need a push, to be reminded of my value and my real job on this earth. She laughs with me and she scolds me when I need it. She is the one who saved me from the abuse in the first place and she is still around. She’s here visiting now and a conversation I had with her inspired me to write this post. Some of these are her Ideas. ( Love you K)
Of all that I have been through I only have one regret: That my Church did not have the skills to deal with my broken heart. By Church, I am not talking about the building we meet in, I am talking about the walking around, talking it up, hands, feet and voice box of the body of Christ. What would I have avoided if someone had the courage to step up and stand up for me and to me and tell me the truth about that God I kept running from when I was15, 18, or 20 or 23 ? What if 25 % ( and that is the Statistics) of the church population who is affected by sexual abuse, physical abuse, trauma and loss were represented by loving, strong Christians with enough information and support to be a support to those survivors? What if abuse was not a shameful secret but a cause taken up by the body of Christ?
Well now, I am a part of the body of Christ. I am the Church. I am no longer a victim and I am more than just a survivor. I was and am mentored and I hope I can be that for someone else, even if I am only ever able to do it from this blog.
So what would this ” mentor-ship” look like? All I can tell is what I have needed in my life.
Training: A mentor would be someone trained by life, with a master’s degree in experience, supported by clergy and should have completed some kind of curriculum themselves. Men to men, women to women. I think a curriculum is important because it puts everyone on the same page and allows those who are monitoring the “program” to know what it is passing on.
**** I believe there are a few key points that a mentor should be able to express to her/his charge.
1) To help untangle a distorted view of love.
2) To explore how God sees us, how valuable we are to him. God has a pretty rockin’ concept of self-esteem.
3) To explore how sin has entered our lives because of the abuse, neglect,loss or trauma and to be responsible for it. To also understand that we are not responsible for the actions of others, natural disasters and situations that we did not create. To learn to recognize coping sin and triggers.
4) To be wise enough to turn his/her charge back to God and not try to “fix” everything. The point is to be a healing mentor and teach skills for healing, not the object of dependence.
5) To counter guilt, shame, anger and depression with gratitude and forgiveness. To teach a person who has been covered in the darkness of trauma to experience laughter, fun and joy; to choose happiness.
6)A mentor has to be able to love a liar and cannot be easily offended or shocked by histories and stories. Secrets lose all their power once they are spoken but until they are, even a person who is ready to heal will go into survival mode. It is easier to lie than to face the work, the pain and the fear of rejection. It’s a process and it takes a lot of work and a lot of patience. A mentor must be able to accept bad behavior as a reaction to pain and not take it personally.
*****7) To Impart that ” I can’t save you, but Jesus Christ can”.
Availability. Someone who would be willing to be there physically, spiritually and emotionally; Someone who could specifically pray for and with a survivor, Modeling the process of healing. This should not come at the expense of family, home, work etc. This is support not adoption.
Support group. It is so important to know that you are not alone and You are not the only one.
A mentor needs a mentor, someone they can call when they feel like they are in over their heads.
Confidentiality is a must. Survivors don’t learn to heal if they can’t trust.
Know When to let go.
And that is what He, the Lord of my heart and life, has layed on my heart about this subject.